Friday, July 31, 2009

Peer Pressure

Internet Ever since I've known UoL was going to roll out Blackboard 9 for the coming session, I've been thinking about using the new(ish) self and peer assessment tool for the reflective essays we plan to get students to write in the first week of our first year PLE course. As Moira commented, Marking 200 'non-core' essays certainly sounds like a deal-breaker to me, so the intention was to use peer assessment to lighten the workload and allow students to compare their work with that of their colleagues.

On Monday I got my first chance to play with the new Blackboard tool. Pretty quickly, it was clear that my plan to use it wasn't going to work. Leaving aside the fact that the finest minds in IT Services ... couldn't get it to work, there are many other problems. Stupidly, I'd been thinking in terms of group assessment, evening out some of the irregularities in marking. My bad. This is a self and peer assessment tool, not a group assessment tool (Hannah's working on that, so the feature should be available in Bb19, around the time I retire ;-). As Hannah explains so well, this is not an exercise suited to the first week of term for many reasons:
  • Latecomers and changing enrollment are problematic. This is a big problem in the first term slot that is available.

  • The two week minimum necessary for the sequential phased nature of submission then peer marking does not fit into this course with it's many, small assessed tasks - better for modules with a small number of assessed tasks.

  • The size and complexity of this cohort means that peer assessment would need more face to face support than we can give on this module.

  • It's not a time saver for staff - it's probably quicker just to mark 200 essays - but what about sharing and socially-constructed knowledge?
So I've decided that apart from the lack of fit with our PLE module, I can't face the complexity of setting and supporting this approach. But I do want students to write a reflective essay, and to be able to benefit from seeing the work of others. So the answer is to get the students to set up individual student blogs on from the outset. They will use these for reporting and reflection from the beginning, and subsequently develop them as reflective e-portfolios in semester two. And if you want a really radical idea, they could continue to use their blogs across three years of higher education - and beyond. Staff will mark the essays using a simple criterion-based marking scheme, e.g:
  • "How should the University of Leicester use information technology in science degrees?"

  • Maximum of 300(?) words.

  • Submit the essay via your blog before <date>.

  • Marks will be awarded as follows:

  • Range of technologies discussed: 30%

  • Personal experiences and opinions: 40%

  • Quality of writing (including clarity of expression, spelling, grammar, etc): 30%

What are the issues? Privacy versus openness? Data security? Plagiarism?